U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, issued the following statement after the president signed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (H.R. 644) conference report into law. The conference report, which included several Thune-led provisions that will benefit South Dakota, passed the Senate on February 11, 2016, by a vote of 75-20.
“It took a lot of hard work, but I’m glad to see this trade enforcement bill, which includes multiple provisions I fought to include, finally signed into law,” said Thune. “These new laws will help level the playing field for American producers competing in a global marketplace who were previously disadvantaged, enforce important trade laws with our partners around the world, and crack down on the unfair dodging of tariffs, which is particularly burdensome to our honey producers in South Dakota.
“I’m also glad consumers will no longer be saddled with a tax for simply accessing the Internet. While this is a big victory for consumers who currently pay this tax on their monthly cable or cell phone bill, a permanent ban on Internet access taxes also provides a major incentive for the entrepreneurs who continue to innovate and help advance the next generation of connectivity in America.”
Highlights of Thune-led provisions:
1. Protecting consumers from higher taxes on Internet service:
Adopts the Thune Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act, legislation he introduced with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), which prevents state and local jurisdictions from imposing taxes on Internet access and multiple and discriminatory taxes on e-commerce. Also included was a four-year grandfather provision for the seven states that currently tax Internet access, including South Dakota.
2. Helping small businesses engage in global commerce:
Makes it easier for small businesses to conduct global trade by allowing more low-value items to be imported into the United States duty-free with fewer burdensome paperwork requirements. The $200 de minimis exemption for imports has not been updated in over 20 years. Thune’s provision – adapted from legislation he introduced with Sen. Wyden – would raise the exemption level to $800.
Also included was a Thune provision to express a “Sense of Congress” that encourages the U.S. trade representative to work with our trading partners to ensure they are also raising their de minimis limits for U.S. goods.
3. Ensuring fair treatment of domestic honey producers:
Provides additional tools to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to better enforce existing trade laws against Chinese honey that is transshipped through third-party countries, which evades applicable duties.
Also included is a Thune provision, which he introduced with U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), to require CBP to distribute all interest payments collected under the Byrd amendment to affected domestic producers, such as honey producers. The law, which applies to products imported before September 30, 2007, requires that certain import duties, including all interest, be distributed to the domestic industries found to have been injured by the imports under existing trade remedy laws. CBP has made a determination, contrary to the plain language of the law, that certain interest payments are not due to the impacted U.S. producers, thus greatly reducing the payments to these producers. The Thune-Grassley amendment will correct this CBP misinterpretation of law.